The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
During the energy transition towards the low-emission economy, the EU energy system faces a period of profound technological, economic and social change that will affect many of the energy sectors, including the coal industry and hence the coal-mining regions of the EU.
In some Member States, indigenous coal and lignite are still important for electricity and heat. They contribute to a secure and affordable energy supply, economic competitiveness and play a stabilising role in the energy system, both technically and economically.
However, the currently active coal-mining regions have to prepare for the phasing-out of coal production to be in line with EU energy and climate policy decisions on fossil fuel use or for economic reasons.
The future of regions currently dependent on the use of coal and future living conditions there must be included in forward planning covering two generations, i.e. 25-50 years. Phasing out the use of coal for energy purposes in these regions cannot be allowed to lead to their stagnation. In view of their economic and social potential, these regions must be involved in implementing the EU’s energy and climate policy. The sustainable development of these regions must be achieved through the guarantee of political, civic and social dialogues which must ensure that there are plans for transition at national, industry and enterprise levels.
To preserve energy security, a competitive industry, environmental protection, compliance with GHG emission reduction obligations and social cohesion in coal-mining regions, the EESC recommends a “Transition Support Plan for the Communities and Regions Dependent on Coal Production” (the "Plan"), to address coal industry restructuring issues during the energy transition so that coal-mining regions can adapt to change.
The "Plan" might be developed by an advisory group in co-operation with the European Commission and the European Parliament. Members of this advisory group should be representatives of the mining regions, unions, NGOs, R&D and the coal industry.
The Plan should be based on three pillars: (i) political, civic and social dialogues; (ii) economic, social and environmental investments; and (iii) investments in education, training, research and development, innovation and culture.
The Plan should encourage regions to change, stimulate innovative development, maintain investment attractiveness and create opportunities for employment and a decent life. In this transition process, it is necessary to take full advantage of the know-how and potential of the mining regions.
Regional authorities, Member State governments and EU institutions must all engage with the energy transition and the related restructuring of the coal-mining regions.
The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions have the necessary experience to be involved in this process, both at the European and national levels. They are also able to provide an effective framework for the political, social and civic dialogue that is necessary for consultation with people from the coal-mining regions.
In respect of the energy transition, one of the main concerns of EU coal-mining regions is the existence of an adequate institutional and political framework that can boost the public and private investments which will be needed in the coming years.
Brian Ricketts, Secretary General of Euracol: Coal in Europe and contribution to energy security